Serious, extended study of the woman's film during the three decades of its heyday (1930-60), filled with both obscure and well- remembered titles. Basinger (Film/Wesleyan; The World War II Combat Film, 1986, etc.--not reviewed) enlivens her text with gleeful vocalizing (``Wheeeeee!'') while her bass notes support a thesis-driven breakdown of women's films into types and themes. Fewer actresses and films might have served the author better than this taxonomy, where the author's livelier voice gets muffled. Main theme: that the woman's picture ``held women in social bondage and released them into a dream of potency and freedom.'' Typically, a woman's picture reaffirmed the status quo--for example, by releasing a woman from stony boredom into happy activity that first becomes suspect and then a disaster, confirming the better value of things as they are. But Basinger points out that, unlike Westerns and other genre films, few women's pictures stuck absolutely to formula--they became much too unrealistic and contradictory for stable definition. The woman's picture placed a woman ``at the center of the story universe (`I am a woman and I am important')''; it reaffirmed that ``a woman's true job is that of just being a woman''; and it provided ``an escape into a purely romantic love, into sexual awareness, into luxury, or into the rejection of the female role that might only come in some form of questioning (`What other choices do I have?').'' Basinger's retellings of the films themselves bring much uplift--she goes into each story filled with intelligence and gusto, her sense of fun often overcoming stuffiness. And no doubt the 45 b&w illustrations will boost reader interest.